From the moment I decided to return to education as a mature learner, I knew that I wanted to study at the University of Birmingham. My brother had previously completed his Masters at UoB and having visited the University I instinctively knew this was where I wanted to graduate from.
Once I began making enquiries I was inspired to learn the social work department had been at the forefront of social work for a century. This coupled with the fact that UoB has a stellar reputation around the world cemented my decision. I must add that the picturesque campus was an added bonus.
Why did you choose to study (social work) and does it continue to impact on your experiences?
Social work appealed to me as I have always had a desire to work with people who are often overlooked and are on the fringes of society. I have a natural inclination to champion social justice and advocate for those who are unable to do this for themselves. The skills I developed under the tutelage at University still shapes the practitioner I have become within my career, and those teachings have provided a solid foundation for practice.
Initially I found the high level of work difficult but quickly came to the realisation that this experience helped me to become a more well-rounded and meticulous learner. My time at university raised my personal standards in terms of what I could achieve and I have taken this ethos forward applied it to myself and now my team. Self-belief is the starting point!
Describe your current role and organisation
I currently work for Birmingham Children's Trust which was previously Birmingham City Council Children and Families department. BCT works with vulnerable children and families across the whole of Birmingham completing statutory duties.
I have held a number of roles within BCT and my current role is Team Manager for a busy children in care team based in the East of the city.
As a team manager I have oversight of all the children open to the team and provide support and guidance to team members. Within my role I hold reflective supervision as well as providing case management direction. Part of the role within Children in Care teams encompasses court work as well as dealing with any safeguarding concerns. Children in care can be considered as long term work as many of the children open to the service will remain in care until they are 18 years old.
Tell us about your career journey from Birmingham student to where you are today
I interviewed for my first role whilst still at University in the final year. I was successful in gaining employment with Sandwell Council with the Children with Disabilities Team. I applied for this role as during university I had not experienced a statutory children's placement and I had very limited understanding around disabilities. As a social worker within this team I completed my ASYE (assessed and supported year in employment) and I remained in this role for 3 years in total until I moved to Birmingham City Council as a Senior Social worker.
I applied to work within assessment and Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team as my frontline safeguarding experience was limited up until this point. Within this role I was the first point of contact during immediate safeguarding issues and dealt with emergencies coming into the service. I realised I wanted to experience a different role but truly loved my job.
I was fortunate enough to be successful for a 1 year secondment opportunity to act as a Consultant Social Worker for the Frontline Programme. Within the role I had a cohort of students who had a degree but no social work experience. This was a real challenge as I had not previously formally supervised staff and my previous role required me to be autonomous for the most part.
Following this I took up a secondment opportunity within the assessment and MASH as Team Manager team for 6 months. This role helped me to try management and I realised I thoroughly enjoyed this role. Once this secondment ended I applied as a team manager for my current role within the children in care team.
Thinking back on your time as a student, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
In my first months I felt completely out of my depth and thought I was not suited to higher education. I would often find myself looking around the lecture theatre and felt as though I was the only person who felt like this. You will not be surprised to learn that as soon as I spoke to others I realised most of the students felt exactly the same.
I would say in order to be successful focus on quality and not quantity and try not to panic if you do not understand the task at first glance. Try not to take constructive feedback personally, this was a big ask of me but I got there in the end! I was able to see dramatic changes in my grades and understanding once I applied the knowledge and suggestions provided by lecturers. University study is not easy but even though at times I may not have always realised it, they were the best years and truly shaped me into the person I am today.
What one word would you use to describe the University of Birmingham?